RORβ modulates a gene program that is protective against articular cartilage damage

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most prevalent chronic joint disease which increases in frequency with age eventually impacting most people over the age of 65. OA is the leading cause of disability and impaired mobility, yet the pathogenesis of OA remains unclear. Treatments have focused mainly on pain relief and reducing joint swelling. Currently there are no effective treatments to slow the progression of the disease and to prevent irreversible loss of cartilage.

Here we demonstrate that stable expression of RORβ in cultured cells results in alteration of a gene program that is supportive of chondrogenesis and is protective against development of OA. Specifically, we determined that RORβ alters the ratio of expression of the FGF receptors FGFR1 (associated with cartilage destruction) and FGFR3 (associated with cartilage protection). Additionally, ERK1/2-MAPK signaling was suppressed and AKT signaling was enhanced. These results suggest a critical role for RORβ in chondrogenesis and suggest that identification of mechanisms that control the expression of RORβ in chondrocytes could lead to the development of disease modifying therapies for the treatment of OA.